Clients with a laundry list


Some clients view an office visit as an opportunity to catch up on an assortment of neglected pet health problems. Use these techniques to stay on topic and on schedule.

By Bob Levoy

Long lists of concerns and questions lead to extended office visits. These unplanned, long office visits seriously limit your ability to stay on schedule. If repeated throughout the day, they can create major delays, increasing your stress level and your team members' frustration and inconveniencing and annoying those clients who are kept waiting. What's more, by graciously accommodating such clients, you encourage them to bring similar lists on future visits.

You can't always prevent clients from bringing in a super-long list of questions and topics they'd like to discuss, but you can lessen the frequency of such visits. Try these solutions:

• Charge for an extended visit. Many clients will gladly pay a greater amount—especially if they're aware that office visit fees vary according to the time involved. If clients object to the fee when they initially learn about it, the receptionist can waive it as a courtesy—but let the client know that he or she will be charged for extended visits in the future.

• Tell the client that you can't adequately deal with so many issues in one 15- or 20-minute visit. Explain that you do care about addressing each of his or her concerns but that today's scheduled visit doesn't allow for that.

• Ask the client what he or she sees as the pet's most pressing health issues. At the top of a patient admission form used by the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Medical Teaching Hospital, it says: “In order of decreasing importance to you, list the reasons, symptoms, or services desired for today's visit.”

• Keep the client focused on the primary reason(s) for the visit. For instance, you might say, “These other issues are important, and we'll get to them, just not right now.” Use good judgment. Be resolute without being mean or confrontational.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a seminar speaker based in Roslyn, N.Y., who focuses on profitability and practice growth, and the author of 101 Secrets of a High-Performance Veterinary Practice (Veterinary Medicine Publishing Co., 1996).

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